5. Research and Higher Education

Recent changes to the global economy – in particular, the digital transformation that has accelerated following the COVID-19 pandemic – are modifying global production and affecting the ability of countries to follow regional integration strategies based on trade and foreign investment policies. Changes in trade patterns, the increased use of automation in manufacturing, and a trend toward regional re-shoring in sectors pose several challenges to the ability of Euro-Mediterranean and Western Balkan countries to move up the value chain and increase participation in the global economy. With the drop in trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, countries must look towards structural reforms to reshape their economies (World Bank, 2020[1]). Promoting structural change in the economies of the region through regional co-operation in higher education and science will be critical to the ability of countries to seize opportunities in this changing global context.

The areas of research and higher education are not prima facie a direct focus of regional integration policies that aim to reduce divisions and market barriers to trade and exchange. However, as this chapter argues, complementary policies are also needed in research, higher education and innovation to accompany efforts to integrate national economies at the regional level.

Regional integration in research and higher education requires pre-conditions at the national level. For  one, it requires that countries share a vision and commitment to research and education as a source of their own country’s economic and social development. Without the internal integration of research and higher education, with industry, including manufacturing and services, within national economic systems, there is a risk that regional collaboration among scientists and universities advances scientific knowledge and strengthens educational linkages but does not contribute sufficiently to the economic development of countries in the region. As argued by (Fagerberg, 1990[2]), a science-push approach has little impact on market structure. In contrast, innovation, which comes from the interaction of science and education with the market, creates learning processes between the users and producers of knowledge and technologies, leading to productivity increases and economic growth.

It follows then that integration in the Euro-Mediterranean region requires not only removing barriers to the movement of goods, ideas and people. It also requires investment in national capabilities for science and technology, including higher education and researcher training, the development of national research funding agencies, large-scale research infrastructures, and joint research centres and laboratories – as well as research mobility programmes, dedicated national research funds for collaborative research, and R&D platforms to match supply and demand for technical services. Embracing digitalisation in research will be equally important. These investments must be significant enough to help countries solve problems through domestic research, but also sufficient to enable international co-operation in higher education and research, help attract foreign investment, and foster knowledge exchange.

Knowledge generated by education and research institutions has the potential to help local firms move up the value chain and diversify production, bringing about structural change. For this to happen, certain pre-conditions must be met. First, research and higher education must be strongly connected within countries at the policy level, the institutional level, and the place-based or economic geography level. This internal integration is known as the “Knowledge Triangle” (KT) (Figure 5.1). The KT concept relates to the need to improve the impact of investments in three areas – education, research and innovation – through systemic and continuous interaction. Its main idea is that creating new knowledge from research and higher education is in itself not enough to generate economic growth; rather, a constant interaction between the main actors of the KT is needed to make economically viable innovation possible. In other words, research should be mobilised through relations with the larger society, including businesses but also entrepreneurs to transform this knowledge into tangible innovation.

The KT concept places a specific focus on entrepreneurship as a channel to diffuse knowledge and innovation generated and to foster greater societal engagement. Higher education institutions (HEIs) are being encouraged not only to educate and train entrepreneurs to apply knowledge but also to locate entrepreneurial activities on campus. This is a rational development as entrepreneurship is a main channel through which knowledge developed at HEIs find their way into innovation.

HEIs are the main backbone of the KT, because they provide key inputs for each corner of the KT but also because – depending on their specific portfolio regarding the provision of education, research and innovation – they often institutionally incorporate the KT in their internal organisation and missions.

The KT framework is not a silver bullet for integrating domestic production with research and higher education. There are both potential complementarity and potential conflicts between research, education and innovation policies. To mitigate against potential conflicts in the missions and focus of higher education and research institutions, co-ordination and dialogue is essential between the different ministries, funding agencies and institutions as well as place-based actors such as local governments (Cervantes, 2017[4]).

It is useful to place the internationalisation of higher education and research in the Euro-Mediterranean region in a broader context. The main channels through which knowledge and technology are diffused globally are market-based channels: net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, imports of manufactured products, imports of ICT and business services, payments for the use of intellectual property rights, and tertiary education abroad. Data show that even when adjusting for the technology content, imports of manufactured products are by far the largest mode of technology transfer to lower income countries (Figure 5.2). Business service imports and FDI are the second- and third-largest sources of technology flows, although FDI is less important for low-income countries. Similarly, while payments for the use of intellectual property rights (IPR) are important for high-income and upper-middle-income countries, they are much less so for low-income countries (United Nations, 2020[5]).

Furthermore, the literature on the internationalisation of business R&D shows that higher education and research conditions in the host countries play an important role in the location decisions of multinational firms. Supply-side factors, such as the host country’s technological infrastructure, the presence of local universities and skilled personnel with links to local companies, are important drivers of R&D internationalisation among businesses (OECD, 2008[6]) (OECD, 2017[7]) (Box 5.1).

In contrast to market flows of knowledge, flows from higher education and research are less important globally. While the percentage of students studying abroad at the tertiary level is important among upper middle and high-income countries, the share from low- and middle-income countries is much smaller than their share of gross domestic product (GDP) or population (United Nations, 2020[5]).

Education reforms in many countries that encourage accountability and autonomy, as well as competition for students and research funding, have enforced institutions to better differentiate themselves and their education market offerings. The reforms to universities have also incentivised them to develop internationalisation strategies to boost their attractiveness to foreign students.

Meanwhile, research policies over the past decade have focused on increasing the contribution of research to innovation through legislative reforms and the establishment of hard and soft infrastructure in the form of technology transfer offices or other interfaces between public research and industry. Moreover, collaboration with public research, whether in the form of science – the “push” transfer of public research results to industry or “demand-pull” initiatives such as public-private partnerships – has become the dominant discourse and a key focus of innovation policies. More recently, with the advent of digital technologies that enable co-operation, the promotion of collaborative platforms that involve a broader range of actors – not just business and public research – has become a focus of research policies, particularly in OECD countries (Box 5.2).

An important challenge in monitoring regional integration and co-operation in the area of research and higher education in the Euro-Mediterranean region is the lack of indicators in countries that have historically low levels of investment in research and higher education. Some UfM economies, including those that are also members or Participants in the OECD, have put in place systems for collecting, compiling, and publishing detailed data about their research and higher education efforts. Many countries in the Western Balkans, Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere have made progress in participating in the international data collection efforts of the World Bank, UNESCO or the EU, but data coverage remains incomplete, especially as regards longitudinal data (i.e.data that track the same sample at different points in time). These limitations make it difficult to measure not only the inputs and outputs of national research and innovation systems but also the linkages within and between national innovation systems.

Several countries have intensified their international activities, including explicit international co-operation strategies, and have improved data collection to assess the efficiency of co-operation. Other countries have regular indicator systems in place to map internationalisation of their national science, technology and innovation (STI) system. For example, in France, the specialist public institute Science and Technology Observatory (OST) provides regular reports on STI activities and performance, both within France and globally. The institute also publishes indicators on international co-publication on a regular basis, and issues specific, one-off studies on the co-publication profile of their research community. However, this practice is neither uniform across countries nor is it widespread and systematic. Other countries, such as Germany, have commissioned ad hoc studies on the internationalisation of research by looking at mobility and co-publication patterns as well as data on institutional strategies and patterns. This reflects a will to underpin strategy development process with empirical data on the individual and the institutional level (Edler and Flanagan, 2008[14]).

In terms of internationally comparable statistical indicators, the OECD and UNESCO lead the world in the production of indicators in the area of science and technology, monitoring investments in knowledge assets such as R&D, higher and vocational education, and ICTs. OECD databases also cover collaboration at the national level and internationally. The number of scientific articles co-authored by researchers affiliated with institutions located in different countries; co-invention or co-patents by inventors located in different countries – these indicators demonstrate the output, intensity and direction of the international co-operation. These indicators underpin efforts to monitor policy targets against input and output indicators. The key indicators used in this chapter are presented in Table 5.1. It should be noted that some of these indicators can be combined with other data, such as population data, to create additional indicators of efficiency – for example, the share of publications, patents, or co-authored publications per population.

Gross expenditure on tertiary education is important as it yields private and social returns. Individuals with tertiary education have higher employment outcomes and enjoy higher wages. Society benefits from higher education as workers engage in knowledge-based activities in business, government and public research sectors, to name a few. UfM countries vary greatly in their effort to invest in tertiary education (Figure 5.3). Some countries such as Morocco and Tunisia invest a relatively high share of GDP on tertiary education. While not a direct measure of regional integration, this indicator illustrates the ability of a country to provide tertiary education to domestic and international markets. As countries become wealthier, they can invest more in higher education. At the same time as education levels rises, the potential for the emigration and mobility of tertiary level students increases, especially towards high-income countries that have established selective immigration policies to attract foreign talent.

Gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) is defined as the total expenditure (current and capital) on R&D carried out by all resident companies, research institutes, university and government laboratories, etc. in a country. Research is original investigation undertaken to acquire new knowledge; experimental development builds upon research to produce new or improved products or processes. OECD data on gross domestic spending on R&D are primarily collected through surveys of R&D performing organisations according to guidance in the OECD Frascati Manual. Expenditure is identified as relating to (basic or applied) research or experimental development; this can be challenging in some cases – particularly for expenditure on capital inputs to R&D or certain sectors (notably higher education) – and can cause the breakdown to be unavailable in part or in full. Data coverage in OECD STI databases is limited to UfM countries that are OECD members and participants, therefore among Southern Mediterranean countries, only Israel is covered. Figure 5.4, drawn on data collected by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, shows that several UfM countries have increased their investments in R&D over the past decade, in particular Israel, Egypt and Algeria. In contrast, Montenegro has fallen back.

Another indicator that can be used to monitor the co-operation between different countries in the context of regional integration concerns the share of funding coming from abroad. Figure 5.5 shows the share of R&D funded from abroad; this includes R&D performed by subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies, R&D undertaken under contract on behalf of companies based abroad, and research grants from international organisations. On average, funding from abroad plays quite an important role in the funding of business R&D. In EU countries it represents between 5 and 10% of total expenditure. In Southern UfM economies, with the exception of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, foreign funding accounts for 5% or less. The weight of foreign multinationals in the economy and in the domestic production of technology matters: in Austria and Ireland funds from abroad represented close to 15% or more of total GERD; in Israel, over 40%.

Especially important for R&D performed by higher education institutions and government research organisations are funds provided by the European Commission, the largest sums of which flow to Germany and the United Kingdom. These play a more important role in the United Kingdom, underpinning 7.4% of higher education and government R&D, compared to 3.9% in Germany – a share larger than that of any other Western European country, apart from Greece or Ireland (Figure 5.6). Indicators of large-scale international programmes – such as the EU Horizon Programmes, EUREKA or COST, and Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs) – may also be open to associate and third countries and contain data on linkages between institutions in different countries.

Research and development (R&D) personnel include all persons employed directly in R&D activities, including technicians and support staff as well as researchers. Researchers are defined as professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge. R&D personnel are represented in full-time equivalent units defined as the ratio of working hours actually spent on R&D during a specific reference period (usually a calendar year) divided by the total number of hours conventionally worked during the same period by an individual or a group. Figure 5.7 provides a measure of the importance of the research workforce in the economy. With a few exceptions, male researchers are predominant across countries of the UfM region.

International co-authorship of scientific publications is defined at the institutional level. A scientific document is deemed to involve an international collaboration if there are institutions from different countries or economies are present in the list of affiliations reported by single or multiple authors. Most estimates come from private databases such as Scopus1 and the Web of Science2. The analysis typically comprises the absolute numbers as well as the share of international co-publications out of all publications and out of all co-publications. Co-publication analysis shows the relative importance of international collaborations that lead to tangible outputs (publications) and the nature of these collaborations in terms of countries and disciplines. Some research fields, however, are more prone to co-publication than others. Indeed, some scholars have postulated that subject-specific cultures affect collaboration patterns and spatial dependencies (Henneman et al, 2012[15]).

Co-authorship measures are robust, probably more so than simple output figures (e.g. number of publications, either in absolute or in relative measures). Nonetheless, bibliometric indicators raise many questions, such as the relationship between co-authors and their institutions. Many scientists hold multiple affiliations, for example.

An analysis of co-publishing based on the Nature Index shows that scientific co-operation is characterised by North-South interactions and less by South-South collaboration, although there are exceptions (Egypt- Saudi Arabia, Morocco-Israel). Most scientific co-operation is organised around physical sciences and chemistry, as well as life sciences, areas that are important to industrial development (in particular the chemicals and petroleum industries). Scientific co-operation in the environment is less pronounced in both the Southern Mediterranean countries and EU countries compared to other disciplines (Figure 5.8). The data also show that, amongst UfM economies, Southern Mediterranean economies collaborate with four to seven other UfM economies out of their top ten collaborators: Albania (8); Israel (6); France and Germany (8 out of 9 southern UfM economies) followed by Italy (7) and Spain (5). In particular, in the field of chemistry, Algeria and Tunisia collaborate with France and Jordan collaborates strongly with Germany and the Czech Republic. In the earth and environment fields, Tunisia collaborates mainly with France. In the life sciences, Morocco collaborates mostly with France while Albania collaborates mainly with Germany and the United Kingdom. A breakdown for the physical sciences shows that Tunisia collaborates mainly with France.

Although scientific collaboration is strongly correlated with scientific and technological specialisations in countries, this does not mean that specialisations are static (OECD, 2017[7]). Indeed, publication data show that between 1981 and 2014 the disciplinary focus in chemical and petroleum engineering in Southern Mediterranean Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries has waned, while there has been modest growth in the life sciences (Afreen S et al, 2016[16]). Although changing specialisations require time and investment in research equipment, institutions and human capital, the experience of OECD and former developing countries such as Korea show that specialisation patterns are shaped by higher education, research, and innovation policies, including those that encourage international scientific co-operation.

Co-publication data can also be analysed by field of study. Figure 5.9 and Figure 5.10 show the co-publication profiles of countries in the Southern and Northern UfM economies, respectively. Generally, profiles reflect the comparative advantage of countries in scientific production, which is itself correlated with research priorities and industrial specialisations or niche strengths. Countries such as Albania, Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia have a strong co-publication focus in chemistry. Morocco and Tunisia also have strong pharmaceutical and food industries that rely on inputs from chemistry. Israel, Italy, Morocco and Turkey co-publish in the physical sciences; the Palestinian Authority and Jordan co-publish in the life sciences. Northern UfM economies have a more diversified pattern of co-publication and a greater share of co-publication in the life sciences, reflecting the growing share of research funding in the health sciences in many EU and OECD countries. Co-publication figures broken down by subject for the Southern UfM countries show that physical sciences are proportionally higher in Israel, Morocco and Turkey, while the earth and environmental sciences are high in Albania and chemistry is high in Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia.

Other indicators try to capture the relations established between different fields and between different institutions. These cognitive and relational indicators are usually more complex (Morini C et al, 2013[17]). Using co-publication data allows the development of network maps to illustrate the intensity of collaboration among partners. For instance, (Research Trends, 2010[18]) showed the relative strength of the collaboration among countries of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) during the period 2004-2008. Egypt appeared clearly as a hub connecting outliers. The network map also showed that OIC nations collaborated along geopolitical lines. Importantly, network maps also reflect the important role that individual researchers play (rather than governments and scientific organisations) in co-operation.

Co-patent analysis has been used to characterise the growth of international cooperation and patterns of partnerships (Guellec, D. and van Pottelsbergehe, 2001[19]). Patents are an indicator of inventive activity and a proxy for innovation. The number of patents per population in a country is indicative of its position in the global innovation ecosystem and the status of its knowledge economy. Countries with comparatively high intensity of patents per population are better able to take advantage of globalisation. International co-patents are measured as the share of patent applications with at least one co-inventor located in a different economy in total patent applications submitted domestically. Data on international co-patenting can be sorted by sectors, technical fields and by firm size (i.e. SMEs). Figure 5.11 shows that the main EU partners collaborating with Southern Mediterranean countries on inventions are France, the United Kingdom and Germany. The main co-inventing partners in the Southern Mediterranean countries for EU countries are Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt, where co-inventions in the chemical and oil industries, light manufacturing, and business services are important.

Important differences in co-invention exist across industries, reflecting the fact that some industries show a higher propensity to patent and a higher proportion of international co-invention (Figure 5.12).

Generally, a large number of international co-inventions are observed in industries such as chemicals, electronics and business services (Debacker k and Flaig D, 2017[20]). Other industries with a significant number of international co-inventions are machinery, whole/retail trade, hotels and restaurants. Intensities (international co-inventions as a percentage of PCT patents) show a somewhat different pattern, with high intensities in a number of industries that have a relatively small number of PCT patents (e.g. agriculture, mining, food and financial intermediation). For the other industries, the intensity varies between 4 and 10%.

Data from UNESCO show that, amongst UfM countries sending 10 000 students, Albania sends most of its students to Italy; Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia send most to France; and Turkey sends most to Germany. Figure 5.13 shows that, amongst UfM countries receiving more than 10 000 students, France receives most of its foreign students from Morocco and Algeria, Italy receives most from Albania, and Germany receives most from Turkey and Tunisia. The United Kingdom receives most from Morocco, Egypt and Jordan (Figure 5.14).

Figure 5.15 shows the ratio of students into the United Kingdom or France to the total of Europe in 2013 and 2017. Amongst five southern UfM countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia), the ratio of the United Kingdom dropped in Jordan from 2013 to 2017. Similarly, that of France dropped in Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon. In contrast, that of France increased for Morocco. In France and the United Kingdom, the ratio of the Southern UfM countries except Morocco fell from 2013 to 2017.

Figure 5.16 shows that among students from five UfM countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia) in Europe in 2017, the largest share came from Morocco (40 000). Egypt experienced the highest growth rate between 2013 and 2017 (more than 150%) following the economic and political changes in the country.

In many countries, indicators of “researchers” remain sparse because researcher are not a unique statistical category. The OECD Careers of Doctorate Holders project began collecting indicators to map the stocks and flows of PhDs. These indicators include (i) the circulation of doctoral researchers within the population of OECD countries and (ii) inflows of non-OECD researchers into the OECD (country of origin of non-OECD doctoral candidates in OECD universities; ratio of third-country to non-OECD doctoral candidates; etc.) (Auriol L et al, 2013[21]). At the national level, several countries (e.g. France, Portugal, Spain and the United States) conduct ad hoc surveys of their PhD holders.

A new survey of doctorate holders in France, for example, supports the notion of circular mobility of PhDs. Approximately 56% of PhDs who earned their doctorate in France in 2014 were employed in Europe (outside France) while 30% were employed in Africa in 2017, suggesting circular migration following doctoral education received in France (MESRI, 2020[22]).

Data from the OECD Education Directorate in Figure 5.17 show the share of doctoral students who are foreign-born or foreign citizens in a selected number of OECD and partner countries. This is an indicator of the stock rather than the flows of international PhD mobility; however, the coverage is limited to OECD countries and a select number of Partners. Many factors at the individual, institutional, national and global levels drive patterns of international PhD mobility. These include personal ambitions and lack of PhD programmes at home. This was the case, for example, in Korea in the 1980s and 1990s, when many students went abroad for PhD training in the United States.

Regional integration and co-operation can also be observed through researcher mobility programmes. However, researcher mobility, in contrast to the mobility of highly skilled migration, is a smaller-scale phenomenon (Box 5.3). Some OECD countries have special visas for scientists and researchers, including for scientists fleeing conflict zones. Meanwhile, data for many UfM countries are inadequate.

One of the largest and most emblematic research mobility schemes is the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), a mobility fellowship that supports researchers at all stages of their careers, regardless of age and nationality. Researchers working across all disciplines are eligible for funding. The MSCA also supports co-operation between industry and academia and innovative training to enhance employability and career development. MSCA fellowships are open to UfM countries that participate as “Affiliate” or “Third Country” members. The data from the MSCA can be longitudinal or cross-sectional. Figure 5.18 illustrates the mobility of MSCA professional staff fellows between Egypt and other countries participating in the MSCA.

Figure 5.19 presents, for Southern UfM countries, the various levels of funding of and participation in international EU collaborative research projects. Due to the SESAME infrastructure, Jordan and Morocco receive a significant amount of funds from the EU; however, participation in EU projects is higher among Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

Research infrastructures play an important role in scientific co-operation at the regional and national levels. Shared infrastructures are an effective mechanism for advancing knowledge when the costs of infrastructure exceed those that can be borne by a single country, or when the research problem is global (e.g. climate change, health, energy development or resource efficiency). Moreover, investment in international R&D infrastructure is essential to attracting international flows of R&D, human resources, and related high value-added activities. Among other advantages, the fruits of such investments are somewhat less internationally mobile than are the results of technology development programmes supported by public funds – indeed, there are strong and lasting regional agglomerations of technological expertise and economic impacts. In the Euro-Mediterranean region, the development of the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) represents a watershed for international scientific co-operation in the region (Box 5.4). Whilst the focus of SESAME is on basic science, it has many applications that can be used to address global and regional challenges such as clean water, low-carbon energy and pollution.

The main findings of the chapter include:

  • Changes in global trade patterns, the increased use of automation in manufacturing, and a trend toward re-shoring and near shoring in manufacturing and service sectors pose several challenges to the ability of Euro-Mediterranean countries to move up the value chain and increase participation in the global economy.

  • Complementary policies are needed in research, higher education and innovation to accompany efforts to promote economic diversification at the national level as well as regional economic integration.

  • Regional integration in research and higher education requires that countries share a vision and commitment to science, technology and innovation (STI), as a source of their own country’s economic and social development. In practice, this means that countries must establish pre-conditions to regional integration in higher education and research. They must invest in R&D and related knowledge-based assets to be able to absorb foreign technology, contribute to trade and exchange ideas through regional and international co-operation.

  • Available key indicators for monitoring regional integration in higher education and research show that integration in the Euro-Mediterranean region has increased unevenly in line with the growing but unequal capacity in education and research in Southern UfM countries and the Western Balkans. Several UfM countries have increased their investments in R&D over the past decade in particular Israel, Egypt and Algeria. In contrast, Spain, Greece, Tunisia and Montenegro have stagnated or fallen back.

  • Cross-border funding for R&D is an important indicator of international linkages. It represents between 5 and 10% of total expenditure in EU countries. In Southern UfM economies, with the exception of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, foreign funding accounts for 5% or less. The weight of foreign multinationals in the economy and in the domestic production of technology matters: in Austria and Ireland funds from abroad represent close to 15% or more of total GERD; in Israel, they represent over 40%.

  • The intensity of scientific co-operation in the Euro-Mediterranean region is characterised more by North-South interactions than by South-South collaboration, although there are exceptions (e.g. Morocco-Israel).

  • Most scientific co-operation is organised around physical sciences and chemistry as well as life sciences, areas that are important to industrial development. Although scientific co-operation in the environmental sciences is less strong in the Southern UfM countries, there is growing demand for research collaboration in this area given the potential regional impact of climate change on the region’s water, food and agricultural systems.

  • Indicators of co-publication and co-patenting show that historical relations and industrial/economic structure shape co-operation patterns. France and Germany are also the main partners in innovation for Southern Mediterranean countries based on co-patenting data. Specialisation and partnership patterns are not static and can be shaped by investments in funding, talent and research infrastructures that can generate new specialisations and broaden the range of potential partners.

  • Student mobility to the European Union shows a sustained increase for Southern Mediterranean countries. Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon send the most students to EU countries. France and the United Kingdom attract most of the tertiary level students from the Southern Mediterranean. Despite the disruption to student mobility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, digital technologies offer new opportunities for broadening participation in regional and international education.

  • Participation in international research collaboration can take many forms, from bilateral programmes to international collaborative programmes such as the European Union’s Horizon 2020. Besides offering a vehicle for sharing costs and improving the quality of scientific research and training, international research programmes are also a way to direct research towards common problems. Tunisia and Morocco lead in participation in EU Horizon programmes but Tunisia and Jordan lead in terms of the value of financing.

  • Research infrastructures play an important role in embedding technology in local economic production systems. National investments in national labs and in international R&D infrastructures such as SESAME can attract international flows of R&D, human resources, and related high-value-added activities. Infrastructures such as distributed research labs also have the potential to act as nodes or part of global research networks, fostering virtual mobility and “brain circulation” as an alternative to brain drain.

  • This is particularly important for countries in the Western Balkans such as Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which have experienced high levels of scientific emigration. It is also relevant to promote brain circulation in countries like Greece and Italy that have historically suffered intra- European brain drain.

Innovation systems are only as strong as their weakest link. This applies to both national and regional/international innovation systems. Strengthening regional co-operation in the Euro- Mediterranean region will require action in several policy domains but especially policies to strengthen national systems so that domestic research and education can be linked with national production, i.e. “the knowledge triangle”. It will also require strengthening connections internationally, including through digitalisation of higher education and research infrastructures and greater use of open science/open data platforms (Figure 5.20). New funding programmes such as PRIMA offer an opportunity to internationalise the knowledge triangle in UfM countries and to focus research and education on concrete societal challenges related to the environment and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, place-based policies or regional economic policies that strengthen the contribution of international collaborations to local development and entrepreneurship will be crucial to creating a virtuous cycle that reinforces the local and international attractiveness of regional knowledge and innovation hubs.

Digital technologies such as open science platforms (e.g. the European Science Cloud or the African Open Science Platform) can accelerate the digitalisation of education and research to enable countries to take advantage of new opportunities for regional co-operation, especially in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and should not be underestimated. Online learning can complement or substitute mobility programmes, in particular for short learning courses. Digital training in vocational education can also equip young people to engage in digital trade in services. Scientific research is increasingly data-driven, and it will be important to ensure that research personnel are equipped with the digital skills necessary to engage with peers around the world.

Rethinking regional co-operation in higher education and research in the context of its contribution to economic development in the Euro-Mediterranean region will also require a reflection on new measures and indicators. Key international statistical indicators focus mainly on proxies for the inputs and outputs of higher education and research collaboration and do not cover relational, institutional, scientific or business networks that would normally provide information on the relative importance of framework conditions and specific education and research policies. Especially in countries where comprehensive indicators of higher education and research are lacking, these relational indicators, based on non-administrative data (e.g . surveys or internet data scraping) could provide rapid insights to policy makers.

Many of the indicators that OECD countries have developed have sought to measure the contribution of international activities to enhancing the national quality of research, as well as the contribution of foreign high-skilled researchers and mobility to innovative start-ups and high-skilled employment. They have been designed from an internal perspective, i.e. from the standpoint of a ministry or funding agency seeking to monitor the impact of funding for international research co-operation. Therefore, while indicators of co- publication are important, they are insufficient for monitoring integration or cooperation on critical development challenges common to MENA countries – for example, water, agriculture or energy research.

There is a need for new, impact-oriented indicators that measure the concrete outcomes/outputs of scientific co-operation, not just accounting for who co-operates with whom or in what field. If the goal of the co-operation is to increase aggregate agricultural productivity as opposed to scientific productivity, the number of co-publications or co-patents in agriculture will not provide that. At best, they can provide a proxy for the intensity or quality of international research, but they cannot measure the contribution of investments in knowledge to solving specific regional problems.

Finally, there are significant gaps in existing key indicators regarding the contribution of international co-operation in research and higher education to place-based economic development – in terms of the places where new business are established or where the patents are applied to generate economic impacts. Research funding and mobility data grouped by gender or firm size is also patchy in a number of countries. Greater engagement between the national statistical systems of UfM countries, Eurostat and the OECD on statistics for science, higher education and innovation would benefit all parties involved in the monitoring of regional integration and in the design and assessment of higher education and research policies.


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